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About John Markoff
John Markoff joined The New York Times in March 1988 as a reporter for the business section. He now writes for the science section from San Francisco. Prior to joining the Times, he worked for The San Francisco Examiner from 1985 to 1988.
Markoff has written about technology and science since 1977. He covered technology and the defense industry for the Pacific News Service in San Francisco from 1977 to 1981; he was a reporter at Infoworld from 1981 to 1983; he was the West Coast editor for Byte Magazine from 1984 to 1985, and wrote a column on personal computers for The San Jose Mercury from 1983 to 1985.
He has also been a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism, and an adjunct faculty member of the Stanford Graduate Program on Journalism.
The Times nominated John Markoff for a Pulitzer Prize in 1995, 1998, and 2000. The San Francisco Examiner nominated him for a Pulitzer in 1987. In 2005, with a group of Times reporters, John received the Loeb Award for business journalism. In 2007 he shared the Society of American Business Editors and Writers Breaking News award. In 2013 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting as part of a New York Times project on labor and automation.
In 2007 John became a member of the International Media Council at the World Economic Forum. Also in 2007, he was named a fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists, the organization’s highest honor. In June of 2010 the New York Times presented him with the Nathaniel Nash Award, which is given annually for foreign and business reporting.
Born in Oakland, California on October 29, 1949, John Markoff grew up in Palo Alto, California and graduated from Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington, in 1971. He attended graduate school at the University of Oregon and received a masters degree in sociology in 1976.
Markoff is the co-author of The High Cost of High Tech, published in 1985 by Harper & Row. More recently he wrote Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier with Katie Hafner, which was published in 1991 by Simon & Schuster. In January of 1996 Hyperion published Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of America’s Most Wanted Computer Outlaw, which he co-authored with Tsutomu Shimomura. What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture shaped the Personal Computer Industry, was published in 2005 by Viking Books. Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest For Common Ground Between Humans and Robots, by HarperCollins Ecco, will be published in August 2015.
He is married and lives in San Francisco.
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Most histories of the personal computer industry focus on technology or business. John Markoff’s landmark book is about the culture and consciousness behind the first PCs—the culture being counter– and the consciousness expanded, sometimes chemically. It’s a brilliant evocation of Stanford, California, in the 1960s and ’70s, where a group of visionaries set out to turn computers into a means for freeing minds and information. In these pages one encounters Ken Kesey and the phone hacker Cap’n Crunch, est and LSD, The Whole Earth Catalog and the Homebrew Computer Lab. What the Dormouse Said is a poignant, funny, and inspiring book by one of the smartest technology writers around.
As robots are increasingly integrated into modern society—on the battlefield and the road, in business, education, and health—Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times science writer John Markoff searches for an answer to one of the most important questions of our age: will these machines help us, or will they replace us?
In the past decade alone, Google introduced us to driverless cars, Apple debuted a personal assistant that we keep in our pockets, and an Internet of Things connected the smaller tasks of everyday life to the farthest reaches of the internet. There is little doubt that robots are now an integral part of society, and cheap sensors and powerful computers will ensure that, in the coming years, these robots will soon act on their own. This new era offers the promise of immense computing power, but it also reframes a question first raised more than half a century ago, at the birth of the intelligent machine: Will we control these systems, or will they control us?
In Machines of Loving Grace, New York Times reporter John Markoff, the first reporter to cover the World Wide Web, offers a sweeping history of the complicated and evolving relationship between humans and computers. Over the recent years, the pace of technological change has accelerated dramatically, reintroducing this difficult ethical quandary with newer and far weightier consequences. As Markoff chronicles the history of automation, from the birth of the artificial intelligence and intelligence augmentation communities in the 1950s, to the modern day brain trusts at Google and Apple in Silicon Valley, and on to the expanding tech corridor between Boston and New York, he traces the different ways developers have addressed this fundamental problem and urges them to carefully consider the consequences of their work.
We are on the verge of a technological revolution, Markoff argues, and robots will profoundly transform the way our lives are organized. Developers must now draw a bright line between what is human and what is machine, or risk upsetting the delicate balance between them.